Any time before the festival, preferably before September 1, sign up to receive e-mail notifications about the festival. That way you'll be notified when locals tickets and passes go on sale. If you've signed up in previous years and haven't changed your e-mail address, you don't need to sign up again every year.
If you want to attend a large number of screenings and/or get into Sundance official parties, you'll probably want a festival pass or ticket package. Registration for passes and packages is available late September through early October. After registering, you'll receive a time slot to purchase a pass online in late October, or a bundle of tickets in early January.
If you just want to attend a few screenings and don't want to get a pass, you can sign up for a time slot to purchase individual screening tickets. Starting in 2013, locals individual tickets will be sold online. The tickets go on sale in January a couple of weeks before the festival, but you'll have to register for a time slot in November or early December.
In December, you'll get an e-mail notifying you of your time slot to purchase tickets online. Time slots are assigned at random, so it doesn't matter whether you registered at the beginning or end of the registration period. If there are more people registered than there are time slots, some people won't be assigned a time slot and won't get a chance to purchase advance tickets.
After you receive your time slot, it's time to do some research and figure out which films you'd like to see. Sundance organizers publish a detailed online film guide in December. Many of the films at the festival have their own websites or have been screened at other festivals, so do some research on films that interest you. Have a few alternatives in mind, because a lot of screenings might be sold out by the time you get your turn.
When your time slot finally arrives in January, you'll be able to purchase locals advance tickets online, and to designate a location where you will pick up your tickets. You'll have to present a Utah Driver's License or other official state ID when picking up locals tickets.
If you didn't get tickets to the film you wanted to see, you still have alternatives. Each morning at 8, the main box offices in Park City and Salt Lake City release a limited number of tickets for that day's screenings. Tickets for each theater's first screening of the day are released at 8 a.m. the day before. Day-of-show tickets must be purchased in person; they are not available by phone or online.
You can also try the wait list. To get on the wait list, go directly to the theater for the screening you want to attend two hours before the scheduled screening time, or if it's that theater's first screening of the day, go one hour before. You'll be assigned a wait list number. Once you have your number, you can leave, but you must return at least 30 minutes before screening time. You'll then line up according to number, and tickets will be sold in sequential order and based on availability. The tickets are $15. You must have cash for wait list tickets.
Enjoy your indie film experience! Sundance screenings are a lot of fun, because the filmmakers and stars often attend the screenings, and there's a Q & A session after the show.
- Didn't register in time to get a ticket-buying time slot? You can still get tickets to many films online or at the box office after the advance ticketing process is over, usually a few days before the festival. Check the Sundance website for the date open tickets sales begin. You can also try the wait list; see step #8 above.
Get to Park City well in advance of your screening. You might be familiar with Park City, but during the festival driving and bus routes are changed significantly. You'll probably have to park in an official lot and take a shuttle to get to the theater. Once you arrive in Park City, try to pick up a printed festival guide. These contain information on getting around town by bus.
The films at Sundance aren't rated. I wouldn't recommend taking children, especially if you aren't familiar with the film. You'll probably have a better experience if you choose films carefully in advance rather than just taking your chances on a mystery film you know nothing about.
Try getting tickets for one of the awards screenings. You won't know what film you're going to see until you get there, but you will know that it's one the judges considered the best in its category.